Spatial Relations and Map Reading for Firefighter Exam Study Guide (page 2)
Imagine you are shopping in a local mall. You look at the store directory to find the closest restaurant. You locate the arrow that says "You Are Here." Do you know where you are? Do you know which way to go to find the restaurant?
The store directory has just presented you with a typical spatial relations question. Spatial relations is the ability to visualize in three dimensions. As the store directory example suggests, everyone needs to be able to translate a two-dimensional representation into a three-dimensional sense of where they are and where they want to go. But this ability is particularly important for firefighters, who must read maps and floor plans to get to the people who need their help.
Spatial relations questions on a firefighter exam are based on a map, a building floor plan, or a picture, usually accompanied by a short explanation of the scene. The examiners may give you a picture of a street with apartment buildings, houses, and stores, possibly including a fire scene containing apparatus and personnel. The questions require you to locate certain points or give details on objects shown in the picture. The answers to the questions can all be found in the diagram; however, you must read each question carefully and pay close attention to the details.
Reading a Map
Many spatial relations questions are based on maps. Map-reading skills are essential to the work of a fire- fighter. Firefighters are expected to be able to figure out the quickest route to the scene of an emergency without hesitation. They are frequently stopped by lost motorists trying to find their way. Pedestrians often come into the firehouse to ask directions.
Questions on the Most Direct Route
Map-based questions typically ask for the most direct route between two points. As you answer such questions, keep in mind that you must choose the best legal route, observing one-way streets and traffic rules. When giving directions to pedestrians, you don't have to consider the flow of traffic, so providing them with the shortest route may be easier to do. Take a systematic approach to answering this type of question, using the following procedure:
- Look at the map. Take a moment to scan the buildings and streets. Locate the legend, if any; it tells you which way is north and explains any special symbols, such as those indicating one way streets.
- Read the question. Read carefully and be sure you understand what is being asked. Do not read the answer choices at this time. Read only the question so that you can plot the route yourself. That way, you are less likely to be confused by incorrect choices purposely included to distract you.
- Return to the map. Locate the information asked for in the question. Look at the street names and traffic patterns.?
- Prepare your answer by tracing your route. Remember to observe any traffic rules that are necessary. Write down the route you have selected. Read the question again. Have you understood what was asked, and have you answered correctly?
- Read the answer choices. Be very observant, as the choices may be very similar to each other. Does one of the choices match your route exactly? Some answers may almost match your route but contain one wrong direction, for example, using north when you are supposed to go south. If you do not find an answer choice that matches yours exactly, reread the question and try again. Carefully review the question to see what is being asked. Do you understand the question? Have you mapped out the correct directions in selecting this route?
A street map is on the next page. Following the map are questions that ask you to find the best route based on the map. After each question is a detailed explanation of how to use the procedure outlined above to find the correct answer.
A firefighter is often required to assist civilians who seek travel directions or referral to city agencies and facilities. The accompanying map shows a section of the city where some public buildings are located. Each of the squares represents one city block. Street names are as shown. If there is an arrow next to the street name, it means the street traffic moves one way in the direction of the arrow. If there is no arrow next to the street name, two-way traffic is allowed. Answer questions 1–4 on the basis of this map.
- Your company must respond to a reported fire at the Third Avenue entrance of the hospital. What is the shortest legal route the engine can take?
- South on Douglas Street, west on Second Avenue, north on Carol Street, and west on Third Avenue to the hospital entrance.
- North on Douglas Street, west on Second Avenue, south on Bruce Street, and west on Third Avenue to the hospital entrance.
- North on Douglas Street, west on Second Avenue, south on Carol Street, and west on Third Avenue to the hospital entrance.
- North on Douglas Street, west on First Avenue, south on Abby Street, and east on Second Avenue to the hospital entrance.
Here's how you would use the map-reading procedure to answer question 1:
- Look at the map. Notice that some streets are one-way only and that avenues permit two-way traffic. Locate north, south, east, and west. What are the names of the buildings shown?
- Read the question. Take note of key words and directions, in this case, shortest legal route. You are responding to a fire alarm, so the starting point must be the fire station. The hospital has two entrances, one on Second Avenue and another on Third Avenue. You are being asked to go from the entrance of the fire station to the Third Avenue entrance of the hospital using the shortest legal route.
- Return to the map. Locate the fire station entrance. It is on Douglas Street between Second Avenue and Third Avenue. Douglas Street is one way going north. The hospital entrance you are asked to report to is on Third Avenue between Abby Street and Bruce Street. Avenues allow two-way traffic, but Bruce Street is one way going north. You need to go south to get to Third Avenue. Abby Street is a two-way street, but you would have to go past the hospital to use it. Carol Street, which is one way going south, is the better option.
- Prepare your answer by tracing your route. After careful consideration, you find that the shortest legal route would be to start on Douglas Street at the fire station entrance and go north to Second Avenue. Then you would proceed west on Second Avenue to Carol Street. Then you would travel south on Carol Street to Third Avenue and then west on Third Avenue to the hospital entrance. Now, reread the question. You have found the shortest legal route from the firehouse to the Third Avenue entrance of the hospital.
- Read the answer choices. Choice c matches the route you chose, but examine the other choices to make sure. Choice a is incorrect because you can't legally travel south on Douglas Street, and, if you could, it wouldn't lead you to Second Avenue. Choice b is close to your chosen route, but it becomes incorrect when it sends you south on Bruce Street, which allows northbound traffic only. Choice d will get you to the hospital legally but takes you to the Second Avenue entrance of the hospital instead of the Third Avenue entrance. It also takes you out of the way by traveling on First Avenue to Abby Street.
Use the same procedure to answer the next question.
- The delivery-person from the grocery store calls to ask directions to the firehouse so that he can walk over with the order. You should direct him to walk
- west on Second Avenue to Douglas Street, make a left, and go half a block to the firehouse.
- east on Second Avenue to Douglas Street, make a right, and go half a block to the firehouse.
- west on Second Avenue to Douglas Street, make a right, and go half a block to the firehouse.
- east on First Avenue to Douglas Street, make a left, and go half a block to the firehouse.
The delivery-person needs to walk from the grocery store to the firehouse. First, locate the grocery store and the firehouse. The grocery store is on Second Avenue between Bruce Street and Carol Street. The firehouse is on Douglas Street between Second and Third Avenues. Since the delivery-person is walking, you can ignore the one-way streets. Trace a route: Beginning at the grocery store, the delivery-person should walk east on Second Avenue to Douglas Street, turn right, and go half a block to the firehouse.
Now read the answer choices. Choice b is the route you would have directed the delivery-person to use to get from the grocery store to the firehouse. Choices a and c have him walking west on Second Avenue, which is not the correct direction from the grocery store to the firehouse. Choice d has the delivery-person walking on First Avenue, which is not where the entrance to the grocery store is located, and left on Douglas Street, which will not take him to the firehouse.
Questions on Finding Your Location or Direction
Map questions may also ask you for your location after following a series of directions. These questions, although worded differently, should be answered using the same procedure:
- Look at the map.
- Read the question.
- Return to the map and follow the directions given.
- Go back to the question and examine the answer choices to see which one matches the direction or location you found in step 3.
Try this procedure on the questions that follow, using the same map given previously.
- You are on the corner of First Avenue and Abby Street. Drive east two blocks, south one block, and west half a block. You are in front of the
- fire station.
- grocery store.
Trace the steps given in the question on the map, paying careful attention to the specific directions, north, south, east, and west. Turn the map as you go to help you keep track of where you are. You have arrived in front of the grocery store, choice d.
- You are walking north on Bruce Street. You turn right on Second Avenue, walk two blocks to Douglas Street, and turn right. What direction are you now facing?
The answer to this question is also found by tracing the steps given in the question. Again, turn the map as you are reading the directions indicated. If you are facing north on Bruce Street, a right turn will leave you walking east. Turning right onto Douglas Street leaves you facing south, choice b.
Reading a Floor Plan
A floor plan is a map of the interior of a building, apartment, or house. The ability to read floor plans and visualize your position is critical if you want to be a firefighter. Firefighters sometimes find themselves crawling down dark and smoky hallways. Knowing the location of doors, windows, and rooms in an apartment on fire may mean the difference between life and death. If fire conditions in the apartment worsen, you do not want to crawl into a closet while trying to find the exit. Firefighters also need to know the location of fire apparatus and personnel, the fire itself, and victims; furthermore, they have to be aware of the risk of the fire spreading to adjoining buildings or apartments.
Preplans are similar to floor plans except they will often show features on the outside of the building in addition to the floor plan, although they may have somewhat less detail on the interior of the building. Preplans are frequently made for businesses, churches, and similar types of commercial buildings. These plans are often carried on the trucks for reference by the crews at an incident. A preplan may include information on access roads around the building, connections to sprinkler systems, location of gas or bulk material storage, locations of fire hydrants, information on alarm systems in the building, and other critical information for the crews.
In questions based on floor plans, your ability to observe and judge location and potential hazards is being challenged to see if you have what it takes to become a firefighter. The floor plan or fire scene may be accompanied by a brief explanation of what the picture shows. The questions may ask the number of exits, windows, bedrooms, or smoke detectors. You may be asked where you would position a ladder to attempt a rescue or which room you are in based on a set of directions.
Fire departments often assign letter or number designations to buildings during an incident. This helps to avoid confusion on what is the front, back, left, or right side of the building. Usually, the "front" of the building is considered the side that fronts the main road that the trucks will use to approach the building. This side will be designated as either Side A or Side 1. The other sides of the building are then numbered sequentially clockwise around the building. For example, if you are standing in front of Side A and are looking at the building, the side on your left would be Side B or 2, the back would be Side C or 3, and the side on your right would be Side D or 4. Letter designations are probably a little more common. Corners of the building are designated using the two adjacent walls, Corner A-B, and so on. If letter designations are used, the floors of the building are numbered as divisions, starting with the ground floor as Division 1. The second floor would be Division 2, and so on. You may see exam problems that use this type of information for a spatial relations question.
Handle floor-plan questions in the same manner as those on maps. Before attempting to answer any questions, look at the diagram. Familiarize yourself with such features as doors, windows, doorways, patio doors, fire extinguishers, and smoke detectors. Read each question carefully; then return to the diagram to find the answer. After you have determined your answer, try to match it to the choices. The correct answer should be apparent, but read each choice carefully to avoid making unnecessary errors. Never jump at one option without carefully reading all the others.
Apply the procedure outlined above to answer the following questions.
Office buildings and apartment buildings may post floor plans at the front entrance or by the elevators to assist visitors. Firefighters arriving at the scene of a fire must be able to read a floor plan quickly and develop a mental picture of the interior. When there is a fire, the smoke can be very thick, so firefighters need to know their way in and out without seeing where they are. The diagram shows two apartments on the first floor of a building. Answer questions 5–8 based on this diagram.
- Firefighters arrive at the scene to find that there is a woman trapped in the bedroom of apartment 2. There is a fire in the living room, and the entrance to the apartment is blocked by fire. What would be the most direct way to rescue the trapped woman?
- Go into the apartment through the patio doors.
- Climb through the kitchen window.
- Climb through the bedroom window.
- Climb through the bathroom window.
The question asks for an alternate way to reach the bedroom of apartment 2, since the entrance is blocked. A look at the floor plan shows that choices a, b, and d would bring the firefighters through the living room, where the fire is located. Choice c, which brings you directly into the bedroom, is the fastest and safest means of entering the apartment and rescuing the woman with the least risk of injuring either her or the rescuers.
- A fire in the kitchen has filled apartment 1 with smoke. You must reach the bedroom to search for sleeping occupants. Visibility is near zero as you are crawling down the entry hall. How many doors will you encounter before you reach the bedroom?
To answer this question, locate the entrance to apartment 1 and trace a route down the hall and to the bedroom. You would pass the bathroom door and a closet door before the bedroom: two doors, choice d.
- How many bathrooms are there in apartment 1?
Review the diagram. Two apartments are shown, labeled 1 and 2. The question asks for the number of bathrooms in apartment 1. Apartment 1 contains one bathroom, choice a. If you counted all the bathrooms shown on the diagram, you would incorrectly choose b.
- How many smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are there in apartments 1 and 2?
The answer is a. You must read the question carefully to see that it asks you to look at both apartments and to find two items, the smoke detectors and the fire extinguishers. There are two smoke detectors and one fire extinguisher in each apartment. If you counted the smoke detectors (but not the fire extinguishers) in both apartments, you would have chosen choice c. On the other hand, if you counted both smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, but only in one apartment, you would have thought choice d was correct.
The ability to understand spatial relations is an important firefighting tool. Can you apply what you see and mentally navigate yourself through the city or a building, while paying close attention to detail? That's what these questions try to assess.
How to Answer Spatial Relations Questions
- First, familiarize yourself with the map or diagram.
- Next, read the question carefully to determine what you are being asked to do.
- Return to the diagram and find your own answer before reading the choices given.
- Reread the question and the answer choices. Don't rush; read all the possible choices. Misleading answers are placed on the test to see if you can be caught not paying attention.
- If the answer you found does not match the choices, look at the question carefully, return to the diagram, and go over your options to see what you missed.
- Remember, the answers to the questions are right there in the map or diagram. Take your time, read to understand, and think through your answers.
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